Domestics Off Radar Screen

I agree with your editorial's conclusion that American designed and built cars are just not on the radar screens of many new car shoppers ( see WAW — Dec. '06, p.5).

I talk cars with a lot of family and friends and many say their next car is going to be Japanese, with no regard for features, design, price or the impact that such a decision can have on our domestic economy. It's hard to convince people to change their minds when so many of their hard-earned dollars are on the line.

Perception is reality in the auto marketplace, and at this time too many people's perceptions are based on experiences and designs that are more than 10 years old. The domestics need to aggressively attack those perceptions through “stunts,” practical demonstrations, advertising and other competitive means.

The other issue that comes into play is the rapid loss of value with an American car. Financial incentives affect both the buying and selling transactions, with a real negative “hit” at replacement time. Try getting anything more than scrap value for a 5-year-old domestic with normal miles at trade-in time.
Gary Frantz
Belvidere, IL

I just read your article extolling the virtues of Cadillac using Iggy Pop as their new ad man. You have got to be kidding, right? If Cadillac thinks their buyers are coming from the followers of Iggy Pop, it deserve to lose its market share.

I am of “target age” for Cadillac marketing, or Buick or Chrysler. I am sick of all the ads, whether for cars or fast food, that use rap “music” or rockers to promote their products. Thank God for TIVO.

The Japanese are creating jobs here and opening new Tier 1 plants all over the country. The U.S. auto makers are addressing their problems by sending work to Romania and Indonesia and Mexico.

As they put Americans out of work, they wonder why they lose market share. And they expect Iggy Pop and rappers to salvage their share? Brilliant!
Dave Dalton
Owensboro, KY

That's a mighty big hill for American auto makers to climb. There are generations of Toyota and Honda lovers who wouldn't even consider buying American. Personally, I own a Lincoln LS V-8 (2003). Love the car — it's a real muscle car.

I also own a Honda Accord (2006). Also a great car, in a much different way. I haven't given up on our American companies yet, but, sadly, many Americans already have. I'm not sure that just “slick advertising” will get the job done.
Ed Callison
Atlanta, GA

Ford Values Driving Macher

Frank Macher's proposed supplier bill of rights is vintage Macher ( see WAW — Dec. '06, p.16). From his early career as a quality control manager at Ford's Saline plastics plant to head of Automotive Components Operations, Macher espoused Ford's values of the '80s: people, products and profits. Cross-functional teamwork and quality were the tools for accomplishing the values.

Today, some quarter of a century later, Macher still drives toward those values. Too bad Ford couldn't find a way to keep him on board. Otherwise, today's dilemma might not be so grave.
Steve Geoffrey
Loudon, TN

Damned If You Do …

I was a bit troubled to see a letter in the December issue concerning “Fairlane Disgrace” ( see WAW — Dec. '06, p.6).

The author of this letter seems to be living in pre-historic times. Ford gets burned for not using names already available for new products and subsequently gets burned for using new names for new products. This is clearly a case of “you can't please them all.”

So, if Mr. Pyzik is so disgusted by Ford naming this new product a Fairlane, I suggest he simply drive his Fairlane into the nearest Ford dealership and trade it in on a new Ford Edge!
Jeff Push
Riverview, MI

Anyone Listening?

When I purchase a “driver-oriented” vehicle, such as a Dodge Charger with the Hemi, Chevy Impala SS or Ford Mustang GT, why can't the manufacturers offer a full 6-gauge instrument panel for us enthusiasts to monitor engine condition?

We are forced to buy “add-on” gauges and drill them into the dashboard. Anyone listening in Detroit?
Dan Rinaldo
Akron , OH

Strategic Advice For GM

I am a retired General Motors senior executive. I was manufacturing manager at Cadillac, GM de Mexico, Rochester Products Div. and AC Rochester, among other assignments. I am concerned over GM's manufacturing strategy, and I have some radical ideas.

When in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, I managed a $95 million facility designed to build 13 cars an hour for the domestic market. I took the plant up to 23 cars per hour with bottleneck studies and no investment. Our product mix (23 CPH) included Chevy Citation, Monte Carlo, Celebrity and Buick Century. These were both front- and rear-wheel drive cars, all going down the line in a random mix simultaneously. Our systems worked.

Today, new product lines and unknown market volumes call for flexibility and minimum risk to investment capital, particularly with market segments that are unknown and initially small.

Changes in labor markets, such as reduced wages and benefits, are calling for a new look at strategy. High investment is more difficult to justify in a lower-cost labor market. Several low-volume and flexible plants, located in different areas, seems a better way to go. Target markets could be plant site locations.

When in Rochester, NY, I dealt with some innovative union leaders. The union needed members. We negotiated an agreement to start up a new manufacturing facility in a blighted area of upstate New York. The average wage in this area was $6.50 per hour. The union agreed to let us outsource non-competitive products to this site as long as the $6.50 per hour plant was UAW. This kept the union's membership up and dues money flowing into the union.

All of this history sets up my idea. GM needs to put low-investment and flexible plants into blighted areas that will accept lower wages. These need to remain UAW plants. The low labor costs allow more manual approaches that reduce investment. The flexibility lets GM run more than one product down the same line, serving a local distribution area.

The low-volume approach presents a minimal investment in new products for emerging markets and reduces lead time to build and equip the plants. Faster to market, lower cost, flexibility, bolstering economies in blighted areas and minimal effect on the local community isn't all that bad, not to mention a profile for startup in other countries.

It always bugged me that I thought I demonstrated some winning strategies for GM. To this day no one has built a mix or started a new product up in the short time, low-investment and quality level as we did at Ramos Arizpe.
Bill Hempel
Punta Gorda, FL

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